August 3, 2012
By Ashwin Malynur
After spending over a month in a southern Indian metropolitan city, the view of the English country side from my train window was a nice change. I was on my way to Oxford for the first time and the train was fairly crowded. Though I was sitting next to some of my fellow classmates there were still many strangers that were right next to me. As the train started a couple of my fellow classmates and I were discussing about what the next three weeks had in hold for us.
As pre-med students we were discussing about med-school and different types of doctors. While we were talking about different stereotypes associated with different types of doctors, one of my classmates made a joke about becoming a general practitioner and how people do it as a last resort. This reflects the general mentality that being a general practitioner in the U.S is not as sought out as other types of doctors. Right as my classmate made this joke, the person sitting right across from us started talking. We were all astounded when she said that she was a general practitioner from Australia. She then went on to tell us how being a general practitioner in Australia is a very sought out job and how the majority of doctors in Australia are general practitioners. She then described how in the Australian healthcare system people go to general practitioners more often because they can diagnose and treat them on a larger range of diseases rather than referring them to a specialist. This got me thinking about our own healthcare system and what we can do to improve it.
Right now in America’s healthcare system the majority of doctors are specialists. In our current system general practitioners act more as people who give recommendations to other people rather than treating the patients themselves- at least more so compared to other countries. As the discussion on the train continued we talked about how it would be a lot more cost effective if general practitioners treated patients more often rather than referring them to specialist.
Our cost per capita for healthcare is one of the highest in the world. There is a reason why other countries are paying less per person for healthcare. In some cases the quality of care may decrease but I truly believe that we can cut healthcare cost in the U.S and still maintain a high quality of care. General practitioners often charge much less than specialist so if we have more patients seeing general practitioners it would be a very effective cost cutting technique. It would also be easier for general practitioners to encourage a patient to practice preventive care. More often than not by the time a patient see’s a specialist the disease or infection is already in the beginning stages of progression. So overall if there were more general practitioners that could treat and diagnose patients more frequently, rather than referring them to specialist, our healthcare system would improve. The number of general practitioners in the U.S is already increasing and our healthcare system is in the process of changing. We are taking a step in the right direction and we just need to continue this change.
England is truly an international destination and it was great meeting new people on the train like the general practitioner from Australia. Travelling abroad has really expanded my perspective even though it was just the first day of our trip. As Americans it is important that we look at different cultures and countries perspectives so that we that we can take the best out of each one to improve our own.
Ashwin is a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience from Beaverton, Oregon.